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£34 million in solar cash could help Britain’s churches and other religious buildings


Britain’s churches and other religious buildings could raise £34 million a year for their coffers by installing solar panels, according to new figures from the British Gas Green Streets programme, which are unveiled today.

British Gas’ research shows that solar panels on Britain’s religious buildings could generate over £29 million a year through Feed-In Tariffs, a scheme which pays households and organisations for generating “green” electricity.

They could also make further savings of nearly £5 million a year by not having to buy electricity, as their energy needs would be met through the solar panels.

This money-making potential will be a welcome revelation to churches and other religious buildings that have been hit hard by the recession over the last few years. A recent report found that a quarter of all 44 Church of England dioceses are running deficits.

As well as improving their finances, Britain’s religious buildings could also do their bit to help protect the environment, as the CO2 savings could also be significant - up to 42,000 tonnes of carbon emissions each year, which is equivalent to the carbon emitted by over 600 transatlantic flights.

Phil Bentley, Managing Director of British Gas, said:

"These potential savings are great news for the UK’s religious buildings and their congregations, and give them the opportunity to lead their communities in tackling climate change and helping Britain move towards a low carbon society. Religious buildings are particularly well suited to solar power as they tend to have large south-facing rooves which receive direct sunlight for the main part of the day.

“The Government’s Feed-In Tariff scheme is the key to unlocking the potential of solar power in Britain. As Britain’s energy company, we at British Gas are committed to helping households, business and community and faith groups make the most of this opportunity to cut their carbon footprint and earn money for the electricity they generate.”

Father Paul Richards, of St Silas Church in Pentonville, London, said: “The Church of England is committed to saving energy and becoming greener throughout the UK and the potential for solar panels on our churches is an exciting prospect. Even though not all UK churches could adopt this model due to planning and architectural conservation laws, there may be thousands of Church of England buildings out there that could help create a greener future by generating clean energy as well as some much needed income.”

British Gas is already installing solar panels on religious buildings to help them raise funds through the scheme and cut their carbon footprint.

Case studies

Earlier this year, one of the UK’s first solar-tiled churches began generating energy as work was completed at St Silas Church in Pentonville, London. The majority of the church’s south facing roof has been covered with specially-manufactured PV tiles, designed to blend in with the surrounding Welsh slate.

In Birmingham, the Masjid-e-Hamza Mosque will be one of the first to benefit from Feed-In Tariffs and expects to be £6,400 a year better off as a result. The yearly income is index-linked for 25 years.

The Masjid-e-Hamza Mosque in Birmingham is part of the Sustainable Mosley (SusMo) project which recently joined the British Gas Green Streets programme. The nationwide competition features 14 communities across the country competing to save and generate the most energy and win £100,000 for their local area.

Esther Boyd, SusMo project manager, said; “We have already submitted plans to the local council and hope we get the go-ahead for the installation of solar panels on the Masjid-e-Hamza mosque in the next couple of months. I hope the SusMo project provides inspiration to other religious groups across the UK, and helps them realise the untapped energy potential they’re sitting-on and the benefits that could be brought to their communities by harnessing renewable energy.”

Note to Editors

1. The data in the release is based upon research from the British Gas Green Streets programme which has both a church and a mosque involved in the project. Using these real life examples in the Green Streets programme (i.e. the potential energy savings and FIT payments of the church and mosque involved in the Susmo project) we extrapolated the findings to take account of the number of churches and mosques in the UK and their average congregation. For more information on Green Streets please go to .

In extrapolating the figures we have made a number of assumptions:

* That the mosque and church as part of the Green Streets project is largely representative of the UK’s churches and other religious buildings
* We are assuming that the majority of churches or outbuildings will have at least 1 area of roof that is oriented SE, S or SW (not unreasonable due to propensity for alter to face east)
* For the purpose of FiT calculations, we will assume that all PV installs fall into the second scale banding (probably a conservative estimate)

2. To find the potential savings for Hindu temples, Jewish synagogues, Sikh temples and Buddhist temples we made some research assumptions. We assumed that other religious buildings are more like mosques in terms of building materials and age of building. We also assumed that the number of members of each faith is a good proxy to the number of religious buildings.

3.A breakdown of the findings based on the above research modelling:

* If all 16,247 CofE churches in the UK were to install PV solar panels there could be an estimated saving of £2,796,515 in energy bills alone per year and make over £17,385,000 a year via FiTs. This would represent a total value of £20,181,516 to the CofE per year
* Mosques in the UK could save an estimated £1,047,200 in energy bills alone and make over £6,300,353 a year via FiT’s. This would represent a total value of £7,557,298 to the UK’s mosques per year.
* Hindu temples in the UK could save an estimated £326,726 in energy bills alone and make over £2,031,149 a year via FiTs. This would represent a total value of £2,357,876 to UK Hindu temples a year.
* Jewish synagogues in the UK could save an estimated £204,204 in energy bills alone and make over £1,269,468 a year via FiTs. This would represent a total value of £1,473,672 to UK synagogues a year.
* Sikh temples in the UK could save an estimated £204,204 in energy bills alone and make over £1,269,468 a year via FiTs. This would represent a total value of £1,473,672 to UK Sikh temples a year.
* Buddhist temples in the UK could save an estimated £122,522 in energy bills alone and make over £761,680 a year via FiTs. This would represent a total value of £884,203 in UK Buddhist temples a year.

These estimates are conservative as many of the buildings could have larger PV arrays than modeled.

4. An explanation of FIT and how it works:

The feed-in tariff is a Government incentive scheme encouraging people to install renewable energy systems such as solar panels.

The scheme promises to reward investors in solar panels three ways.

* Firstly, you are paid the ’’generation tariff’’, which is a direct payment from your energy supplier for each unit of electricity you generate. This starts at 41.3p per kilowatt/hour (kWh), and is fixed by statute to increase in line with the retail price index for the next 25 years.
* The second saving is under the ’’export tariff’’, which is a payment made for energy you export back into the electricity grid rather than use on site. This pays an extra 3p per kWh.
* Finally, you also make savings on your electricity bills as you no longer need to buy all your electricity from an external supplier.

Domestic solar PV systems cost between £8,000 and £14,000 depending on size. A 20 kW

system, similar to one to be installed at the Masjid-e-Hamza Mosque in Birmingham would cost around £75,000 to install. For the above modelling, a 10kW system has been assumed.

5. The report into the finances of the Church of England was conducted by the accountants, Mazars. More detail on the report can be found here -

6. A jumbo jet omits 20,000 lbs of Co2 in one hour of flight = one transatlantic flight to NYC omits 150,000 lbs (7.5 hours of flight time approximately). There is 2,240 lbs in a ton. The estimated carbon savings from religious buildings in the UK - 42,000 tonnes


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